With a sea of yellow shirts in the crowd, a deafeningly loud national anthem singalong and a fervent atmosphere that reached fever pitch, you could be excused for thinking Greece were facing the hosts in their opening game. However, it was not Brazil but Colombia that Panagiotis Kone’s Greece squared up to, and were defeated by, in their first match at this FIFA World Cup™.
"I want to to tell you that we were prepared," Kone said in an exclusive chat with FIFA. "We knew what the atmosphere would be like during the match against Colombia. The difference between the two sides was very small. We were aware of the presence of Colombia's fans, but I don't think that it was an issue for us."
The 2013 FIFA Puskàs Award nominee had three shots on goal against Colombia, but could not replicate his spectacular effort from December 2012 as Colombia dominated in a 3-0 win. Kone knows there are lessons to be learned for their second game against Japan on Thursday.
"The issue for us was the three or four lapses in the first match," the Bologna midfielder explained. “We certainly have to fix this in order to have a chance of getting a good result in the game against Japan. Beyond that, as I said before, we work hard on the psychological side of things with our coach and amongst ourselves. We will try to enjoy the game and to go on to the pitch knowing that we are in a World Cup group stage and that it is a dream for all of us to take part in this global celebration."
Greece’s No8 also revealed how coach Fernando Santos and his staff were preparing the side for their second game against Japan, and the difference of life at a major tournament compared to domestic football.
"We have very good coaching staff and they do their jobs very well," Kone said. "We all know that the players taking part in this World Cup are coming off the back of very hard domestic seasons. This makes our coach's life more difficult.
"We cannot work on physical preparation as we do with our club teams during the season. Instead, as we are gathered here in a global tournament, we put more work into looking at the way we communicate and on every player's psychological state."
Of the European sides that reached Brazil, Greece scored the least goals in qualifying (12), but Kone concluded that they do not have major problems in front of goal.
"I don't believe that it is a matter of scoring," he said. "It's not that I don't think that we can score, because we created enough chances to do so. It would be a problem if we didn't create goal-scoring opportunities. As we build plays, I believe that the goals will come. We simply have to be more concentrated, more convincing. If we do all of that, I think that we'll get a good result in the next match against Japan."